I must admit to being more than a little in love with all things Scandinavian. Earlier this year, in an eager attempt to cling onto the last of the summer holidays, Niels and I planned a weekend away in Stockholm. What followed was a sunshine-blessed, cardamon-infused weekend where everything was so effortlessly cool the only thing left to do was relax.
Whether it was the first time in 10 years we’d flown without the kids, or down to supreme Swedish organisation, the flight through to the train connection and arrival at the city centre was so easy and stress-free we were somewhat surprised to find ourselves outside our hotel with only the briefest look at a guidebook.
The hotel we picked (we did search and found rather a few we could happily have stayed in) was a zone of boutique magic. A girls’ school in another life, the interior blends calm functionality with more than a hint of style and Scandinavian chic. Yup, we could have stayed for a week or two easily.
The first night we ambled a few hundred yards along to Urban Deli (think of a deli combined with a coffee shop, combined with a bar, combined with a restaurant, combined with a hotel and you might just imagine it – only on the way home did we discover it had a roof terrace we’d missed). The local beer went down well and the ambience set us in the mood for a weekend of chilling.
I am normally the queen of navigation in our relationship. If there’s a map to be followed or a route to be planned I’m on it. Strangely Stockholm had me slightly flummoxed and instead I found myself relying on Niels’ sense of direction. The thing to realise quickly about Stockholm is that the map is secondary to the district you’re in. It is a city built on 14 islands and each has its own characteristics and personality. My advice would be pick the island you want to hang out in and then lose yourself there.
First morning we headed to the beautiful Gamla Stan, the old medieval heart of the city. The character-filled cobbled streets were filled with hidden gems and the sense of history. Highlights for us included Stockholm Cathedral, Cristofferns Flower Shop and so many individual craft shops we lost count.
A hop, skip and a jump took us across the bridge to Södermalm. This was once known as the seedy part of Stockholm. Now I’m not sure you’d find any part that doesn’t ooze style and personality. This city is just too cool.
Södermalm is also home to the Fotografiska, one of the world’s largest meeting places for contemporary photography. For us this was a little bit of heaven. Not least because the building is so fab and has panorama views across the harbour. While we there the exhibitions showing included Bryan Adams ( seriously unfair that one man can be so talented with a camera as well as with a musical career) and Anton Corbijn. It was one of those places I’d easily visit weekly if I lived close by. In fact you need to go to Stockholm just to visit this spot.
The following day, after a leisurely breakfast (more cardamon of course) we set off for the Vasa Ship museum. There was a queue but like all things in Sweden the queue was fast-moving and with the sun spilling onto our backs we were in no mood to mind. Once inside it was as though the crowds had disappeared. It is the kind of museum you should visit as to get your head around how a ship sank in a harbour and was then lost for 333 years before being found takes some understanding. It was a pretty special place.
This was also the day for some tram travel. Advice on this one would be to book ahead. Booking ahead can save you up to 30%, and make sure you don’t buy your tickets on the tram, as apparently they charge lots more that way. Our tram ride was so short we felt on foot might have been a better plan. In general, foot is the best way to explore this city as you’ll constantly be surprised with beautiful design.
When on holiday we always love to try special places to eat. We’d heard of Ekstedt – a restaurant which embraces ancient cooking techniques and a wood fired stove is used for cooking and there is no electricity. Immediately it was on our hitlist and we were delighted to bag a table. Not only was the food superb, but the atmosphere and wonderful smokey aroma will linger with us for a long time.
When in Stockholm it would be rude not to partake in a little shopping for designer items. Granted our budget was a little shy of most of the items we drooled over (and in fairness we couldn’t very well cart large beautiful pieces of furniture back on the plane). However that didn’t stop us admiring. For all things designer and beautiful head to Norrmalm.
We also took a wander into the cool neighbourhood of Östermalm and found the cafe Broms. Finding a bench to sit on while we munched gave us the chance to take in the locals. And yes they were all beautiful and uber-funky. We felt slightly under-dressed for a Saturday morning shopping trip. Note to self: must dress better for brunch date.
On our last night we opted for dinner at Speceriet. You can book tables in advance, or turn up as there are generally spaces on a shared table. The concept is pretty simple no starter or mains, just mix, share, socialize and enjoy. We loved it and would definitely recommend.
Stockholm we admit to have fallen in love. You were a dream for a weekend’s jaunt and we feel like we left so much of you untouched. We will be back, that’s a promise.
Has Stockholm caught your imagination? We’d love to hear of your adventures… Alie x
Our Stockholm hit list
For great sleep and long leisurely breakfasts
– Miss Clara
For anything from local beer to deli specials
– Urban Deli
For Historical Reference – Vasa Museum
For adventurous foodies – We loved Ekstedt for its incredible food and smokiness
For a romantic walk – Gamla Stan (first thing or last thing when the streets are quieter)
For great coffee and cardamon buns (if you haven’t had your fill) – Broms
For cultural absorption – Fotografiska
For shopping – Too many to mention!
Images copyright of We Fell In Love